Roman, Victorian, Georgian - the number of cultural layers in the city of Bath makes for a heady experience.
Set amidst the rolling Somerset hills and famous since Roman times for its hot springs, Bath is unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in England and suitable for a short break or even a week long holiday.
Long known as the preserve of the rich, largely due to its wealth of elegant honey-coloured townhouses, built by the aristocracy who flocked to the city to enjoy its hot springs, Bath has retained its genteel atmosphere to this day.
Indeed, Bath is an architectural gem with over 5,000 listed buildings, some of which were inhabited by some of Britain's most eminent artistic figures. Jane Austen wrote Persuasion and Northanger Abbey while living in Bath, while it was here that Gainsborough established himself as a portraitist and landscape painter.
As a result of its historical, cultural and architectural pedigree, Bath has been named a World Heritage site. Its magnificent Abbey, built in 1499 dominates the landscape, towering over its Georgian vista spreading out across the valley floor.
Due in large part to its pleasing aesthetic and its leisurely atmosphere, Bath is very much a city for the holiday maker to explore on foot. Taking Bath Abbey as a starting point, the wealth of Georgian architecture, independent shops and a highly diverse range of restaurants, theatres, pubs and museums mean it is a city to experience as much as to see.
However, Bath would never have grown from anything more than an obscure Celtic village had it not been for Roman innovation with the construction of the city Baths.
Inevitably the Roman Baths represent the biggest tourist draw to Bath today, but by no means are they its only attraction. Visitors can walk where the Romans walked at the Baths, discover Jane Austen at The Jane Austen Centre, enjoy a birds-eye view of the city's golden terraces and green countryside from Beckford's Tower, or simply enjoy a meal at the oldest house in Bath, Sally Lunn's Refreshment House and Museum.
Other attractions in the city where visitors can spend a morning, afternoon, or entire day include the Hershel Museum of Astronomy, the Museum of Costume, and the Royal Crescent, which was designed by John Wood and completed in 1774.
While Bath manages to condense a large city's worth of entertainment in to a compact valley, its swathes of parkland between its Regency developments lend the city a spacious and relaxing feel.
Meanwhile, the surrounding countryside is some of the most spectacular in southern England, while internationally recognised attractions such as Stonehenge, Avebury and the Cotswolds are all within easy reach.
Bath is not a large city, so does not boast the wealth of entertainment venues that can be found in nearby Bristol. Instead it is a city built on its illustrious heritage, taking pride in its architectural and cultural magnificence.
Nevertheless, while Bath may not have hundreds of bars and clubs to choose from, its large student population ensure a youthful vigour that belies its size, creating an intoxicating blend of old and new in one of the most aesthetically sublime cities in England.
Getting To And from Bath
Visitors arriving in Bath by train can enjoy connections with Bristol, London, Reading, Salisbury, Southampton, Weymouth and Swindon from the Victorian Bath Spa station, which is located in the city centre. There is a taxi rank at the station. Passengers are advised not to accidentally disembark at Oldfield Park, which is a stop in a residential suburb one mile from Bath Spa.
Motorists driving to bath should take the M4 to Junction 18 and then follow signs to the city centre for about five miles. Those approaching from London should take the A4 and then the A36 into the city centre.
Motorists are warned that parking in central Bath can be difficult and are advised to check with the hotel or hostel they are staying in about onsite parking facilities. However, for day visitors there are central multi-storey car parks.
There are also a number of bus services between Bath and Bristol, as well as from London.
International travellers or those arriving by air from a domestic location can use Bristol International Airport to reach Bath. The hub is 20 miles from the city centre and boasts scheduled flights to a range of European cities.